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Maintenance Operations for Offshore Wind Farms Could Rely on Drones Instead of Ships

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is funding a project called Drones Wind Farm. The goal is to research the benefits of using transport unmanned air vehicles for maintenance services required by offshore wind farms and to eventually start operating them.
Drone Wind Farm is a project dedicated to the use of large drones for wind farm maintenance 7 photos
DLR Is Researching Drone Applications in Several SectorsDLR Is Researching Drone Applications in Several SectorsDLR Is Researching Drone Applications in Several SectorsDLR Is Researching Drone Applications in Several SectorsDLR Is Researching Drone Applications in Several SectorsDLR Is Researching Drone Applications in Several Sectors
The idea of using drones for the offshore energy sector isn’t new, but so far, they have only been used for inspection tasks – small drones can provide quick inspections of wind turbines. But could larger and more capable drones be used to transport materials and even maintenance crew members over long distances to offshore sites? This is what the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will be investigating as part of this new project, together with the energy supplier EnBW.

Initially, DLR will focus on the general conditions for drone operations connected to wind turbines. A DLR drone is being used for experiments at a land-based EnBW wind farm. This will help researchers come up with a model for offshore operations, followed by complex simulations.

The future transport drones will need to have an increased payload capacity and range. They could replace ships and helicopters that are typically used for offshore maintenance services, which would save time and money.

But the interaction between drones and wind turbines is a sensitive issue that still requires extensive research. The air vehicles should not interfere with the system’s operation more than what’s strictly necessary, and at the same time, they need to take into consideration dangers such as the air turbulence zones behind the active wind turbines. DLR researchers also want these future transport drones to be capable of calculating the best route themselves.

Once the research project is concluded, the next step will be to launch an Offshore Drone Challenge inviting drone manufacturers to present potential solutions based on the research’s findings.

The Drone Wind Farm is just one of the projects focusing on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) carried out by the DLR Institute of Flight Systems.

press release
 
 
 
 
 

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